From relatively unknown, to a world-renowned superstar, the Jigga-man has consistently brought forth quality material. This is no exception. With the aid of The Roots band (Black Thought is of course missing from this recording, because there's no rapping guests featured) - Jay performs "live" versions of a selection of his material. The material was of course recorded for the well-known MTV Show: "Unplugged." And I'm very pleased that this came together. Many times you'll notice that an emcee/artist sounds unbelievably better on their studio recorded (and probably altered/toned up using machinery) material than they do live. Breath control and voice consistency are obviously hard to maintain, especially with rap. Now, although Jay doesn't sound as good as he does on his professionally manufactured material, he does sound pretty consistent in comparison. He manages to keep his flow smooth, the only flaw is because he keeps going.... his voice sometimes doesn't sound as well defined as it does on "proper" recordings.
The CD consists of 13 tracks, performed live. And a bonus professionally recorded track; 'People Are Talking.' The majority of the live tracks are performances from 'The Blueprint.' But, there are a couple of tracks from 'Reasonable Doubt' ('Ain't No..' and 'Can't Knock The Hustle') and his other releases. However, the brilliant and slept on album that was 'In My Lifetime: Volume I' is completely ignored. I would have loved to hear a live version of 'You Must Love Me' - but, oh well.
Jaguar Wright (of Okayplayer/Roots family fame) provides the vocal contributions to the majority of the r & b segments of Jay's tracks, she perfectly slots in where needed enhancing the quality of the material nicely. Mary J. Blige even comes through for her contribution to 'Can't Knock The Hustle.' The Roots band are perfect. They provide live renditions of Jay's music to a brilliant extent, and even add some "ad-libs" - on 'Takeover' when Jay rides not only the actual beat used on the track, but throw in Mobb Deep's 'Shook Ones' beat and Nas' 'Halftime' and 'Oochie Wally' beats while he disses them.
Every track is performed to perfection with the inclusion of the live band. This release is definitely a worthy addition to any Jay-Z fan's collection. With any luck, Jay will continue delivering us the sane quality for a long time to come. 'People Are Talking' unveils that the sequel to The Blueprint will be out in November. I certainly hope that's true.